To The Root: Pat Musick's Essential Art

“So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run.” New England’s nature preacher Henry David Thoreau said that, but if objects could speak, then artist Pat Musick’s works would say something similar, too. Swelling with earthly warmth and energy, striking at the bass notes of life and nature as it were, Musick’s art returns us to resonant fundamentals. Over the past twenty- ve years, as seen in her retrospective at The Sculpture Ranch in Johnson City, Texas, the Los Angeles-born artist has hit at the clear and solid facts of things, stressing what is necessary and irresistibly real. Her work seems to say—and say again—go to the source, and we obey. We fall back earthwards.

We might see Musick’s interest in the source or “main root” of things as consistent with her background in psychology. (The artist received her doctorate in psychology from Cornell in 1974, and worked in the eld of art therapy at the University of Houston. Psychology is nothing if not the study of roots: of thought, emotion and conduct. Yet, more crucially, Musick’s interest in uncovering the essential is a formal, artistic concern. Creating plain-spoken objects from bronze, steel or stone, she is able to convey a hushed magnitude that arrives at us like a breath, as if the works were waiting for us to kneel down and lend them our ear with a special sort of intimacy.

But if getting to the essential root represents a formal concern for the artist, it certainly represents an environmental one as well: It is a call for getting back to the bare facts of nature, for a renewed sense of stewardship toward “our fragile home,” to borrow the title of one of the artist’s work series. Musick’s art operates within those very ssures from which our thoughts and beliefs emerge about the natural world. Working there represents an effort to correct, to mend. She confronts a fragility. ~ James H. Miller, Art Critic